Three products for a radiant, customizable tan — without UV rays

Three products for a radiant, customizable tan — without UV rays

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Pourquoi l'acide glycolique irrite-t-il parfois la peau ?

Why does glycolic acid sometimes irritate the skin?

A brief reminder about glycolic acid.

Whether of natural or synthetic origin, theglycolic acid, formerly known as hydroxyacetic acid, is the shortest of the alpha-hydroxy acids (A.H.A.). It is also referred to as a fruit acid, alongside citric acid, malic acid, and thelactic acid. This molecule is typically derived from sugarcane, grapes, or beets. It stands out among the A.H.A.s due to its powerful keratolytic activity and its small size, which allows it to penetrate the skin deeply. It is considered the go-to active ingredient when one wants to boost skin radiance, treat acne issues, hyperpigmentation, and even wrinkles, or simply to hydrate the skin.

Glycolic acid is present in many cosmetic product formulas at a concentration between 4 and 10%: serum, cream, toning lotion, shower gel, etc... However, although it is suitable for almost all skin types (normal, combination to oily, and mature), glycolic acid can sometimes be poorly tolerated.

Glycolic Acid and Side Effects.

The effects of this active ingredient are highly variable and depend on the concentration of glycolic acid and the duration of application. That's why it's crucial to always thoroughly read the instructions before any application. Besides the concentration and the application time, the pH of the formula will have an influence on the intensity of the exfoliation. Indeed, the higher the pH, the more the action of the glycolic acid is neutralized.

It's important to understand that it's completely normal to experience slight tingling and a mild warming sensation, as well as to see some redness appear after applying cosmetics containing glycolic acid. This is due to the low molecular weight of this active ingredient, which allows it to penetrate deeply into the layers of the epidermis.

However, depending on your skin's tolerance level, these symptoms can intensify and may even be accompanied by erythema, burning sensations, tightness, itching, and facial swelling, as well as hyperpigmentation. In rare cases, hypopigmentation, persistent erythema, and acne flare-ups have been reported. As soon as such side effects appear, immediately stop using the product and consider thoroughly rinsing your face with water. However, at Typology, we advise against its use onsensitive and reactive skin, as well as for individuals suffering from an inflammatory skin condition (eczema, rosacea, herpes, etc…). It is also advisable to avoid using it among pregnant women. Indeed, it is the cause of vascular disorders related to hormonal impregnation, resulting in congestive flare-ups on the face: the skin reddens more easily and becomes more sensitive.


  • Gabriella Fabbrocini, Maria Pia De Padova, Antonella Tosti, Glycolic Acid, Color Atlas of Chemical Peels, (2006).

  • Sheau-Chung Tang, Jen-Hung Yang, Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin, Molecules, (2018).


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